India's financial sector was crippled today as all banks, insurance companies and commercial establishments in Mumbai remained shut on the first of the two-day nationwide strike, organisers said.
"The banking and financial sector is 100 percent closed, not only in Mumbai and Maharashtra but all over the country," All India Bank Employees Association vice-president V Utagi said.
Utagi said all banks -- nationalised, private, foreign, regional, rural and cooperative -- had "wholeheartedly" participated in the strike. Although suburban trains, buses, cabs and private vehicles here are running normally, the usual peak hour crowds were relatively thin.
Following the last-minute withdrawal of the two major unions led by Sharad Rao and AL Quadros, most cabs, autorickshaws and taxis were plying.
Suburban trains were running normally, however there were reports of minor stone-pelting on a train at Bhandup.
Most educational institutions were open, but student attendance was thin.
The Class III and IV employees of the state secretariat Mantralaya and district headquarters have also joined the strike.
While Mumbai's dabbawalas, who ferry food to office-goers, are working as usual, a majority of the shops, eateries and commercial establishments opened with their shutters half down.
In Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena and all its affiliated organisations are fully supporting the shutdown.
However, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray assured that students appearing for the crucial Higher Secondary School Certificate Examinations starting all over Maharashtra Thursday (Feb 21) would not be hit.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation said all emergency services would be on full alert to handle any untoward situation.
The all-India shutdown call is in support of various demands by the unions, including concrete measures to counter inflation, steps for employment generation, job security, universal social security and making the minimum wage to Rs 10,000 per month along with daily allowance.
Police in Mumbai and across the state have made elaborate arrangements to counter any situation arising from the strike.
The joint strike call has been issued by the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), Indian Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC) and other such central and state organisations, cutting across party affiliations.